Causes and Cures of Body Odor

by Leo Cartland
man wearing gas mask with body odor coming from armpit

Some studies show that the smell of middle aged men is actually received more negatively than any other type of body odor. This is bad news if you care about presenting yourself as physically attractive because, when it comes to sexual preferences, research shows that people care more about how good you smell than they care about how good-looking you look. However, even if you do not care about being attractive, some smells are a sign of an underlying medical condition, so you should not ignore any foul odors. Here are some causes of bad body odor and some of the ways to manage it.

Scalp Bacteria

Some people have hair that smells weird, even after they wash it. The cause is usually a type of bacteria that often live in your scalp. These bacteria are harmless, but a serious wash should get them out. It will help if you lather your hair in shampoos that contain sulfur, zinc, or tar. You also might want to consider skipping conditioner as often as you can. If you have longer hair, then you can use conditioner, but only for the bottom tips of your hair. Keep it far away from your roots and scalp.

Athlete’s Foot

If your shoes, socks, and feet are starting to stink, the cause might be a fungal infection. Check around your toes for dry and scaly skin, redness, and blister. These are all symptoms of athlete’s foot, which is when bacteria and fungus start to wear down the skin around your toes. When athlete’s foot progresses, the skin becomes soft and moist, which makes it an ideal place for more bacterial come and colonize on your feet, causing infections such as cellulitis. Luckily, over the counter antifungal sprays can get rid of athlete’s foot, but talk to your doctor if you want to get something more powerful.


man looking at underarm sweat stain on his shirtThe most common cause of body odor has to do your apocrine glands, which produces high protein sweat that bacteria like to break down. When the bacteria on your skin start to metabolize this sweat, it can emit a smell. These glands exist all over your body, but armpits are a common culprit for foul smelling sweat. If you sweat a lot, then you might want to consider killing off some of this bacteria by washing areas like your armpits with antibacterial soap. You can also try shaving your armpits, which will cause some of your sweat evaporate before bacteria can start breaking it down. Of course, showering often, basic hygiene, deodorants, and antiperspirants can also help.

High Sulfur Content Diet

Garlic and onions may make your breath smell bad, but some studies also show that foods with high sulfur content can cause bad body odor. Foods such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower release sulfur as you digest them. Your sweat glands can then release this digested sulfur, making you smell bad. Trying to include other types of high protein vegetables into your diet can help prevent this type of body odor.


Trimethylaminuria is a condition that makes you smell like rotten fish. It is caused by excess excretion of a chemical known as trimethylamine because your digestive system does not properly break it down. There are no other side effects of this condition, but if you want to try to treat it, you can avoid foods with a high trimethylamine content, such as seafood, some types of milk, eggs, liver, beans, peas, peanuts, and cabbage.


Using fabrics and sheets made out nylon tend to do a poor job of eliminating natural body odors. Nylon is also warmer to the touch, which can increase how much you sweat. Fibers that are not man made, such as cotton and linen, can actually fight off bad body odor by allowing for better circulation and by keeping you cooler.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can cause bad breath in the morning, even if you did a good job with brushing your teeth the night before. Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing at night, which causes fatigue, snoring and dry mouth. A dry mouth often leads to bad breath because the moisture in your mouth is normally responsible for stopping sulfur-producing bacteria from breeding. Talk to your doctor about treating the sleep apnea so that it does not develop into a bigger problem. Once the sleep apnea is treated, your dry mouth symptoms should go away.


man holding out smelly socks and pinching noseAndrostenone is a pheromone used by animals and some scientists think it can be produced by men, even if humans do not use it as a pheromone to the same extent as other mammals. It is a derivative of testosterone and some people say it smells like urine. However, studies show that some people cannot smell it at all, while some people say it smells very attractive, like vanilla. This discrepancy is related to genetics, so you only want to worry about it in some cases. Luckily, androstenone is associated with sweat and sweat glands, which means that you can eliminate odors caused by androstenone by showering often.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a digestive problem associated with inefficient production of lactase, an enzyme hat that digests dairy products. Undigested dairy products are fermented by bacteria in your gut, which can cause bloating, gassiness, and foul smelling fecal matter. To prevent this, you can take certain pills before eating dairy or you can try avoiding dairy products altogether.

Urinary Tract Infection

If you have foul smelling urine, you might have a bacterial infection in your urethra. Urinary tract infections in men are often caused by a bigger problem that prevents you from properly draining your bladder. These bigger problems can include kidney stones, diabetes, or enlarged prostate glands, so talk to your doctor about treating urinary tract infections and any of the underlying problems that it could be signaling.

Even if you were never the type of person who cared about how badly you smelled, you still want to follow rules of basic hygiene and you definitely want to consider paying attention to some of your body odors. Sometimes, they are harmless and it is up to you to decide how you want to deal with them. However, other times, they can be a sign of a medical condition that requires treatment, so try not to ignore your body odor.

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